Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo filed a civil lawsuit late Wednesday, one year after announcing his resignation, challenging New York Attorney General Letitia James' denial to pay his legal fees amassed during his sexual harassment case filed in federal court last year.
A New York State Police trooper who was part of Cuomo's personal security detail filed a civil lawsuit, claiming she suffered retaliation after her reports of sexual harassment while working to protect the former governor.
The woman, anonymously known as Trooper 1, filed the case against the New York State Police, former Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo's spokesman. The filing happened in late February after Azzopardi, who owns and runs his own private relations firm, had started working as a private citizen.
Cuomo's suit filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday night alleges the attorney general's office improperly rejected Cuomo's request for defense counsel or his legal fees and did not provide a reason or supporting argument for the decision.
"...Respondent James’s denial of Gov. Cuomo’s request for counsel was arbitrary, capricious, contrary to the plain text of the statute, biased, personally and politically conflicted and was in dereliction of respondent James’s duties as the chief legal officer of the state," according to the suit, citing state law.
The suit notes Trooper 1 depended on evidence and information from the Aug. 3, 2021, attorney general's office report that concluded Cuomo sexually harassed multiple female state employees and perpetuated a hostile work environment in the Executive Chamber.
"Andrew Cuomo is trying to force New Yorkers to pay his legal bills because he believes sexual harassment was within his 'scope of employment,' as governor," a spokesperson for Attorney General James said in a statement Thursday. "Sexually harassing young women who work for you is not part of anyone's job description. Taxpayers should not have to pony up for legal bills that could reach millions of dollars so Mr. Cuomo's lawyer can attack survivors of his abuse."
The former governor and his counsel continue to allege the attorney general's report contains errors and omits evidence, and suggest that the investigation was politically motivated.
“The report has been reviewed by five separate district attorneys and every single one has declined to move forward based on it — it was nothing more than a political document and holds no legal weight," Azzopardi said in a statement Thursday. "Their political games continue.”
The state provides defense for a state employee for any civil action or proceeding in state or federal court when a complaint occurs "while the employee was acting within the scope of his public employment or duties," per state Public Officers Law § 17.